New EU spirits law welcomed

A vote by MEPs to make changes to the EU spirits law has been welcomed by the industry.

Ministers came to an agreement to introduce clearer definitions of vodka, gin and whisky at the first reading of amendments to the 1989 law in Strasbourg yesterday.

Under the changes, vodka will be allowed to be made from any raw material - a decision which angered producers in traditional vodka producing countries such as Finland and Poland - but brands not made from cereals or potatoes would have to list the materials used to make it.

Gin & Vodka Association director general Edwin Atkinson said it was good news for UK distillers who use a variety of different raw materials for vodka but that listing ingredients on bottles would mean added costs.

“We will be looking to ameliorate the costs and legal concerns that this raises,” he said.

The term London gin would also be recognised under the changes. The name would refer solely to gin distilled with natural botanicals to differentiate it from artificially-flavoured gin.

New rules on whisky production and more protection for Scotch whisky were also given the go-ahead by the European Parliament. Under the amended legislation for example, whisky would not be able to be flavoured or sweetened.

Nick Soper, the Scotch Whisky Association’s European affairs director said the amendments would be a “significant step forward”.

“It will be easier to protect Scotch from unfair practices, supporting export success and the jobs that depend on that continued success,” he said.

MEPs will make their final vote on the changes to the 1989 EU definition, description and presentation of spirit drinks in September.